Giving the gift of food is always a nice gesture. If you select the recipient’s favorite food and arrange them nicely beforehand, the gift is sure to be a hit!
However, there are certain ways of presenting food as a gift, especially if the occasion is a somewhat formal one. This is where cheese baskets come in; they provide a blend of cheese varieties as well as items to pair them with.
Cheese itself is great as an appetizer, a snack, or part of the charcuterie board at a party. Before making it the major part of your gift, though, make sure that the intended recipient is not lactose-intolerant.
If you’ve just had the idea of giving a cheese basket as a gift, you might be a bit confused about where to start. Not to worry, the following guide should help you in making the best cheese samplers or baskets:
1. Choose the Cheese Wisely
The best cheese basket offers around four to six types of cheeses in it, preferably ones with various textures and tastes. It might also be nice to have a mix of shapes; one type of cheese may come in wheel form, while you can choose blocks for any other type. Soft cheeses can come in a tub or packaged in plastic.
Here are just a few examples of the types of cheese you can include:
- Hard cheeses such as parmesan, cheddar, Romano
- Soft cheeses such as mozzarella, stracchino, or feta
- Semi-soft cheeses such as brick, Monterey Jack, or havarti
- Semi-hard/firm cheeses like Swiss cheese, provolone, gouda, or gruyere
- Blue cheeses such as marbled blue jack, cheddar blue, or gorgonzola
2. A Proper Presentation
The basket part of the cheese basket is almost as important as the contents. After the cheese and other items are finished, the recipient can keep the basket as decoration or reuse it for something more practical.
A wicker basket with a sturdy handle is probably the best choice for a cheese basket. It looks good and is sure to last a long time. If you get a good-quality basket, it should be able to carry the heavy weight of several cheeses without any issues.
The cheeses should get individual packaging for the sake of both hygiene and aesthetics. Tie a ribbon around the harder cheeses or the tubs/packages of soft cheese.
Once you’re done putting in the items, wrap the whole thing in cellophane or cover it with some clean thick cloth. You can also make it more festive by adding ribbons, flowers, sprigs of herbs, or other decorations on the exterior. Finally, tie a ribbon or weave some green leaves around the handle of the basket.
3. Consider Something Other Than a Basket
When it comes to presenting cheese as a gift, it may also be nice to use something other than a basket. A cheese plate or platter will also look nice and be useful later on. If you want the basket to stay, the platter can always be placed inside it and the cheese arranged on top.
The cheese plate itself can come in all sorts of options–wood, ceramic, stone, melamine, marble, bamboo, and so on. For the best option, conduct some research on whether a stone cheese platter is better than wood.
Other non-basket options might include a colander, a large mixing bowl, a vintage milk crate, and so on.
4. Select Some Non-Cheese Items
Preferably, a cheese basket should have something for everyone. Most baskets and samplers don’t just have cheese; they also have items that go well with various types of cheese. These enhance the experience of eating cheese and also provide alternative options for those who don’t eat cheese.
Keep in mind that different cheese will go well with different items. If you’re in a hurry, a few loaves of different breads will do great. When you’re in the mood to amp up that basket, though, here are a few ideas to get started:
- Meat options: Cured meats go with both hard and soft cheese, though it’s best to select those options that match what you have in your cheese basket. For example, salami goes well with gouda and soppressata goes well with havarti. Cheddar cheese pairs well with most cured meats, but you can also include more unique items like chicken liver mousse, patés, and terrine.
- Crunchy snacks: Items like crackers, both light and hearty, can be great when paired with cheeses in a basket. Include similar items such as breadsticks, biscuits, or even chips so that the recipient can start enjoying all that cheese right away! These additions will also help out in making a charcuterie board or grazing board at a party. They probably go best with the softer cheeses, as you can use them as a scoop to make a quick snack. Then again, there are different kinds of cheese dips for an easier experience.
- Fruits and Vegetables: If you’re going to give your friend the cheese basket right after packaging it, or they will use it right away, fresh fruit or vegetables might be a welcome inclusion. You can even cut up the veggies into thin sticks for easy dipping or chunkier sticks for scooping up the cheese. Arrange them on a separate platter. Olives and grapes also provide a nice combination with some types of cheese; the glass jars or fresh fruit will look lovely in any basket.
- Dried fruits or dry fruits: Dried fruits such as apricots, raisins, and dried pineapple taste especially amazing when you pair them with the right cheese. Dry fruits and nuts will also make for a nice experience, especially almonds, cashews, and walnuts
- Pickled vegetables: Many people love a pickles and cheese combination, so they’d probably love pickled vegetables with their cheese basket too. You can even make or buy a mix of pickled vegetables in a fancy glass jar.
- Spreads and dips: If you want to mix it up, provide some other types of spreads such as jams or preserves. These also taste great when layered with cheese on bread; some may want to try cheese directly with the spread as well. Other dipping options may include honey, marmalade, honey, etc.
- Breads: You can put in the traditional white and bran options, but consider some unusual choices as well. Sourdough bread, a Pullman loaf, multigrain, and pumpernickel bread will all make great pairings with cheese.
- Chocolate: It might seem strange to some, but some chocolate and cheese combinations can be absolutely delicious. The selections do matter here, though, so you may want to include some hot chocolate powder if your basket has gruyère cheese in it. For aged cheddar, dark chocolate with sea salt could be the perfect pairing. Young goat cheese apparently goes well with stone ground dark chocolate, while you can things even fancier with blue cheese and dark chocolate ganache truffles
All the choices above will add texture, taste, and value to your cheese basket gift. They can make your offering more memorable and special, while also helping the recipient enjoy their cheeses to the utmost.
5. Take Precautions
While packing up the cheese basket, be careful about placing everything just right. With so many things in one place, an incorrect placement or packaging can end up spilling or spoiling some items. For instance, if the honey jar is not upright and tightly packed, some of the contents can drip down and make everything sticky. That’s certainly not an experience you want to gift someone!
You also have to be especially careful to keep the cheese at just the right temperature. If it’s fresh cheese, make sure to deliver the basket by hand. If you’re shipping this gift, used cured cheese and meats only. Caution the recipient to check and refrigerate the contents if they don’t want to serve them right away.
A cheese basket can be the perfect gift, especially when you choose the contents carefully and ensure a nice presentation. The basket can make a nice gift for someone you don’t know very well, or be a helpful addition to your friend’s party spread. It can also be a more personalized gift, keeping the recipient’s unique tastes and preferences in mind.
Whatever the case, the tips above should be helpful in arranging the best cheese basket for your friend. Remember; quality always matters, especially when it comes to cheese. Take a look at this cheddar cheese buying guide to ensure that you select the best options.